New changes to the US Power grid may soon affect you. Here is what you need to know and how to be prepared.
The power grid is a shaky and scary thing. It is vulnerable to large scale attack, it is not sustainable, it requires large amounts of dwindling fossil fuels to produce electrical power, and it requires a significant amount ongoing maintenance. In additional to all of that, the amount of power that modern society now requires is staggering. Large appliances and electronic devices and are always on have joined the standard necessities of modern life, creating an unbelievable power drain.
How does the power grid currently work?
The U.S. power grid is actually composed of three grids, unbelievably complex, and designed to bring electricity to all the various parts of the country as needed. There is a grid that covers the East coast, one that covers the West coast, and one that mostly serves Texas (you can’t make this stuff up).
The amount of energy demanded must match the amount of energy produced, otherwise there are brown outs and black outs. If an overabundance of electricity is produced, well, that can be a bad thing, too. For one, there is no where for the extra electricity to go. We don’t have a system for large scale storage of electricity that can be tapped into during peak times or emergencies. It is an elegant balance that works well most of the time, but is outdated not only for modern demands, but also for modern risk management.
The U.S. power grid, right now, is simply a one-way street. Energy flows from the supply source where it is produced to the demand source, our homes, facilities, and businesses. The grid sends out electricity but is unable to receive it.
Electricity moves along high voltage transmission lines and lower voltage power lines, where it is then distributed for our use. Transformers near the power plant increase the voltage of the electricity, so it has the oomph to reach across long distances. Once it gets near our homes, however, additional transformers reduces the voltage before it enters our homes, businesses, etc.
How is the power grid changing?
There are three specific efforts that are underway to change the power grid:
The building of “smart” grids in specific locations that changes the one-way street system into a two-way street. A computerized grid would manage power between the power plant (or utility) and the customer. Power could be produced, used and managed both ways. Smart grids could take advantage of renewable energy sources that are generated by the efforts of homeowners. Solar panels that produce more electricity than a family can use themselves is one example.
The building of “microgrids,” which are small grids that connect a group of buildings with a local power source that is not part of one of the main grids. Right now, microgrids are seen as a tool for use as an emergency power source during disasters. Think of a personal home generator that kicks in during a power outage, but on a larger scale.
Large-scale battery storage, which could stand alone as a system or compliment the smart grid effort. There are a number of companies, both larger players and start ups who are racing each other to develop a low cost and effective battery storage system.
What does the changing power grid mean for preppers?
To be prepared for the coming changes to the power grid, as well as for personal and family protection if there is a disaster, preppers should step up their efforts to create their own energy sustainability and be fully independent of the grid, if needed. In addition, homeowners who can generate an excess of electricity will not only be independent of the power companies, but may have the opportunity to “sell” their energy for additional income.
The prepper advice:
- Have at least one whole house power source. Two is better
- Make sure to know how to cut off power to the grid at your end
- If you are asked to hook your renewable power source to the grid, make sure you understand everything this entails
- Stay aware of the ongoing changes to the power grid.
- And as expected…have at least 1-month worth of food and water stored for each member of your family.
Infographic Source: DOE